Virtual Gourmet

October 12, 2008                                                                 NEWSLETTER

"Turnips, Alsace" (2007) by Galina Stepanoff-Dargery

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In This Issue

Salmon and the Sustainability Zeitgeist by Jacqueline Church


NEW YORK CORNER: The Four Seasons by John Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: The Mazzei Family Sees the Future of Tuscan Wines by John Mariani



Salmon and the Sustainability Zeitgeist

by  Jacqueline Church

“Eats first, morals after.”
--Bertolt Brecht, Threepenny Opera (1928)


    Recall your last dinner party. Chances are “sustainability” came up in conversation. Or, it will in the next one you attend. Foodies, writers, and chefs have refused to let the topic of sustainable foods fade away. The daily stream of news about environmental disasters threatens our ability to enjoy a good meal, guilt-free. If the news doesn’t cast a pall on dinner, a vigilant fellow diner may. So common are the pronouncements and moral tirades these days, it seems that people have forgotten how to be good company, how to break bread with joy.
    Other than the foie gras fiasco, perhaps no other element of our contemporary diet has been as debated as seafood. Salmon enjoys a precarious perch as one of the “big three” favorites among consumers. Tuna and shrimp round out the trifecta of debatable dinners.
   We are urged to forgo salmon completely by some well-intentioned (and deluded) experts. Another voice at the dyspeptic dinner table says to eat fish, just not too many and not if you’re nursing, pregnant, or otherwise compromised. Still others will allow us some of the forbidden fish, so long as we promise not to buy farmed salmon. I’m surprised how many people can recite the number of pounds of fish food it takes to farm one pound of salmon (At least three, some say many more, making farmed salmon inherently unsustainable.) At the fringe are a few who are working to improve farming methods. Then there are those who would have the government issue bans. Good luck!
    We have an insatiable appetite for fish like salmon for many perfectly sound reasons. Taste, ease of preparation, compatibility with wine, harmony with other foods, healthy omega-3 fatty acids; salmon has it all. It’s not hard to see why salmon is not going away. Or is it?

The Trouble with Salmon

   Trouble in river city. Any spawning river, that is. The trouble is the fish are disappearing. Actually, that’s the easy headline. The truth, as usual, is a bit more nuanced. (Cue the angry emails. It’s okay, I learned through the foie fights to ignore them.) There have been alarming drops in several runs in Oregon and Washington. There have also been good runs in other areas. And, there are communities that depend on our love of salmon to survive.
      This month, I was invited to join a media tour of chefs and writers on a visit to Cordova, Alaska. Cordova is a picturesque fishing town off the Prince William Sound on the Copper River Delta. Cordova was incorporated 100 years ago in 1908. The state of Alaska is much younger (statehood in 1959). Cordova sits on Orca Inlet and it’s a hardworking, fun-loving town.

Tops and Bottoms

   Taras Grescoe’s book Bottomfeeder (Bloomsbury) is causing a stir in the food world, and sustainable food advocates are mostly measured in response. The subtitle, How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood, indicates part of the problem people have with the book. Ethics and food are too complex for simple solutions. Forgoing salmon, tuna and shrimp (even assuming this were possible) doesn’t change the whole food production and delivery system. It doesn’t offer a global solution or even a local one. It doesn’t enforce sustainable fishing practices. Top of the food chain fish like salmon are the ones that Grescoe would have us forgo completely.
    I therefore leapt at the chance to meet real fishermen and women, tour a cannery, view the Copper River Delta from a plane, walk the docks, and spend time with locals in an important fishing town that sits at the nexus of the debate. The offer was all the more enticing, coming on the heels of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Cooking for Solutions event and the recent publication of Grescoe’s Op-Ed piece in the New York Times.
    Turns out, he got it about half right. He wants everyone to stop eating salmon because the population has been decimated in most places. As far as it goes, that's fine. But, Alaska shouldn't be penalized by scaring away customers from its products. They take great care to manage their fishstocks and resources, sometimes over-manage, but everyone bears the burden because they understand their long-term livelihood and the salmon that's so precious to them depend on it. So, it's like punishing all your kids because one of them skipped school to go to the Red Sox rally.
    Unfortunately, Grescoe does a great disservice to the one state that manages its resources in truly model ways. Alaska has incorporated in its very Constitution the responsibility of its government and citizens to balance the competing needs of economic development and sustainability.
    In Cordova I sat at dinner tables, lunch counters, and bars with people who are bearing the pain of a shorter or diminished run. Fluctuations in fishing harvests dictate much in a town like Cordova. No fish means no money. Investing in new equipment after a good season may seem wise. But a lean run and high fuel costs next season, make it prohibitive to go out. There sits your investment; your money locked into a boat that’s not able to bring money in.
   Yet people in Cordova have fished for generations. They’ve enjoyed strong years and endured lean ones. They accept that responsible management of fish is not only their duty as citizens, but also provides for their future, their livelihood. They are rightly proud of their gem of a town and their beautiful, delicious, and healthy Copper River Salmon.

➔  Here are five things you might not have known about wild Alaskan salmon

•Ninety percent of the US wild salmon catch comes from Alaska and is not affected by the West Coast fisheries closures.
•In 2007, the commercial harvest in Alaska exceeded 212 million fish -- the fourth largest Alaska salmon harvest on record.
•No species of Alaska seafood has ever been listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
•The top 10 Alaska salmon harvests on record (since 1900) have all occurred in the last 16 years.
•The Seafood Watch Program and the Marine Stewardship Council both give a green light to wild Alaskan salmon.
•Alaska does not allow any fish farming. Therefore, Copper River Salmon (indeed, all Alaskan seafood) is wild, by definition. Chefs including John Besh, Barton Seaver, John Ash, Melissa Kelly, Susan Feninger, Rick Bayless and many others who are sustainability leaders, have signed on to the Congress of Conscious Chefs and proudly serve wild Alaskan Salmon.

Jacqueline Church writes about  food for Her “Teach a Man to Fish” blog event was recognized by the Seafood Watch Program for promoting sustainable seafood choices.


    In the November issue of Esquire I have written my annual round-up of the "20 Best New Restaurants of 2008" in America. As I note in the introduction,  For one-third of the Esquire’s 75 years, I have been ferreting out and heralding America’s best restaurants--the chronicle of an era that saw France’s la nouvelle cuisine translated into the New American Cuisine, then fusion, global, and molecular cuisine.  I’ve chowed down $55 hamburgers, olive oil ice cream, chocolate-flavored beer, oceans of foamed sauces, and lobster tartare.  I’ve seen the rise of tea sommeliers and fromageurs, the decline of Prime beef, the demise of smoking in restaurants, and the near-total disappearance of tablecloths.
     And through it all, we’ve seen the emergence of American gastronomy as the most diverse, most regional, and most innovative in the world. You eat in Italy, you still eat Italian. You go to Mexico, everything’s wrapped in a tortilla. You go to China, bring your chopsticks. In the U.S. chefs from all those countries, and everywhere else, have not only had savory impact here but two generations of well-educated, well-traveled American-born chefs have used their ingenuity to create a modern American cuisine no other country can begin to match, from a New York strip to a Chinook salmon, from Cajun gumbo to Chicago pizza, from Oregon pinot noirs to Long Island cabernets.
    And through it all, I'm still starving for another good meal. Here, in 2008, is where you’ll find 20 of the best meals of your life.


CHEF OF THE YEAR--Dominique Crenn, Luce, San Francisco

Scarpetta, NYC; Convivio, NYC; Bar Boulud, NYC; Bar Blanc, NYC; Kampuchea, NYC; Scampo, Boston; Voice, Houston; Restaurant at Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas; Takashi, Chicago; Mercat, Chicago; Plumed Horse, Saratoga, CA; Palate Food + Wine, Glendale, CA; Corbett’s, An American Place--Louisville; Pacific Time, Miami; Zahav, Philadelphia; Distrito, Philadelphia; Terra, Tesuque, NM; Spruce, San Francisco.
. . . And for those wondering why David Chang's much-hyped Momofuko Ko did not make Esquire's list:
WHY WE NO GO TO KO: Because, after months of trying, we couldn’t get a rez for one of the 12 stools at the bar at David Chang’s feverishly-hyped new restaurant Ko on New York’s Lower East Side. There’s no phone number, no secret line for the media: just a website whose byzantine workings force you to register, then wait each morning at exactly 10 AM to punch in your request for a seat. One second too late and the seats are gone. They always are. Our Esquire staffer dutifully tried this for two months, including weekends, without ever scoring a seat.  So, even though Gourmet Magazine calls Chang the most important American chef of the last half-century and  Anthony Bourdain exalts Chang as a “demi-god,” your chances are no better than theirs or ours ever to eat at Ko.   Mind you, Chang himself has said, “I don’t believe in that whole superstar celebrity chef thing. I’ve worked in too many kitchens where the egos got in the way of the food. . . . . Sometimes I feel like I’m on ‘The Truman Show.’ I always considered myself one of the worst cooks in any kitchen I ever worked at.”   But, hey, if you do get through, give me a call. I’d love to join you.














by John Mariani

99 East 52nd Street (near Park Avenue)

     A decade ago I co-authored the book The Four Seasons: A History of America's Premier Restaurant (you may order it from  by clicking on its cover at the end of this newsletter), with Alex von Bidder, who, with Julian Niccolini, have owned the famous restaurant since 1995. The book was as much a social history of New York's very mutable dining scene from the 1950s to the 21st century as it was of the restaurant, through long stretches when The Four Seasons, which had opened in 1959, was losing money as recessions and disasters took their toll on the city.  That it has survived in all its original glory--set within the Seagram Building designed by Mies van der Rohe and designed by Philip Johnson and Bill Pahlmann--is an astonishment, and the fact that it is still considered one of the quintessential restaurants of New York is testament to all those who kept it going from the early years when Restaurant Associates ran it, then later Paul Kovi and Tom Margittai, then von Bidder and Niccolini.
     So, since I have an obvious bias towards The Four Seasons, you may take any report by me on the current state of the restaurant with as many grains of salt as you like.  Nevertheless, I suspect that most food writers' opinions would closely mirror mine, and the restaurant's popularity, both for its "power lunch" (a term created by Esquire Magazine specifically to describe the New York business titans who pack the Grill Room each day) and for the romantic beauty of the Pool Room.
     My brother and his wife were in town from Rhode Island, and The Four Seasons was always his favorite restaurant, as symbolic of Manhattan glamor and sophistication as any totem on the island.  My wife and I, who had not dined at the restaurant in years, happily joined them in the Pool Room, yet again exhilarated by the breadth and height of the room, the babbling of the marble pool, the tall seasonal trees reaching to the ceiling, and the barely moving strings of metal beaded curtains on the vast windows that overlook the plaza of the Seagram Building.  Indeed, the genius of Johnson and Pahlmann's design is its agelessness; it looks as modern as any restaurant in the United States while evoking the International Style that dates to the 1960s, when polish and finish meant more than razzle and razzle.
     The menu format is pretty much the same--a large broadsheet with 20 appetizers,10 main courses, and specialties for two people, appended by nightly offerings.  The winelist has been considerably changed from being printed on the back of the menu to being paged in a book of historic photos of the restaurant's five decades in business, including the fabulous wine barrel tasting dinners that were in the vanguard of promoting California wines.  Prices have risen, of course, but,
with appetizers $22-$42 and main courses $38-$58, not actually the highest in New York,  A three-course meal here will average close to a hundred bucks per person (without wine, tax, and tip), which puts it in a league just below the fixed price menus of many haute cuisine French restaurants in Manhattan. Still, it ain't cheap, but look at what you're getting all around you.
     We began with Hudson Valley foie gras with sweet roasted figs and rose petal jam. Here, as in everything from chef Christian Albin's kitchen, the ingredients are the focus and everything else enhances them.  A tomato consommé (always a risky choice because it can so easily be bland) was here a deeply flavorful reduction, with orzo and a little basil. A tasting of hamachi, bonito and bass sushi was pristine, and tiger prawns with crabmeat and a simple lemon-chive sauce was meaty and sweet.
      Dover sole, once ubiquitous on French and continental menus, finds no better harbor than at The Four Seasons, the fat  fish simply floured and sautéed in abundant butter, easily separated from its bones and wonderful with crisp rösti potatoes and creamed spinach on the side.  I opted for maple-mustard-glazed suckling pig with braised celery hearts and mashed potatoes, a delightful dish for early autumn.  My brother and my wife shared one of the classic great dishes here, on the menu for ages and brought to perfection long ago--crisp-skinned duck with a cherry compote--the meat so tender and silky, the whole package so toothsome, quite deserving of its renown.
      We followed with a selection of cheeses, which, sadly, came out cold, suggesting they don't serve much cheese here. Then came the wonderful blossoming Grand Marnier souffles and petit-fours, with a glass of dessert wine.  Someone at another table was celebrating a birthday, so, as always, the kitchren sent out cotton candy--another Four Seasons signature that connotes the place does not take itself quite so seriously.
      It was a special night, a commemorative one, a familial reminder of ties that bind us.  But it was also a dinner of distinction, if not breathtaking in its novelty, certainly prepared and served with the kind of consistency a long-time professional team invests in such a storied place. With a better track record than any of the New York sports teams, The Four Seasons is among the great champions of American gastronomy.

The Four Seasons is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., for dinner Mon.-Sat.


After Six Hundred Years Tuscany’s Mazzei Wine Family Branches Out in the 21st Century

by John Mariani

     The family that gave Chianti its name back in the 14th century has entered the 21st with an array of wines they are proud to call, simply, Tuscan. In doing so the Mazzei family, which by marriage gained the Castello Fonterutoli estate (above)  in 1435, is part of a movement to expand the scope and style of Tuscan wines by declining to obey the strictures of the Denominazione di Controllata Garantita (DOCG) rules that state Chianti can only contain certain grapes and come from distinct, improved zones.
      Thus, while Mazzei still makes wonderful Chianti Classicos under the Castello Fonterutoli label, its more modern wines carry the lowest denomination of Indicazione Geografica Tipico (IGT), which merely suggests the wine in the bottle is typical of the region.  These wines, from Chianti zones, go by names like Badiola and Siepi, while newer wines from the Maremma region, also in Tuscany, carry names like Serrata, Tenuta Belguardo, and Bronzone.  They are also now making a robust red wine called Zisola in Sicily from the nero d’avola grapes grown there.
      “Our family dates back to the 11th century, so we are extremely devoted to Tuscan traditions,” says Francesco Mazzei, 48, who with his brother Filippo and father Lapo (below), oversees all the wine production with the hindsight of 24 generations. “The first recorded mention of the word `Chianti’ was by our ancestor Ser Lapo Mazzei, and another, Filippo, was asked to plant vineyards at Monticello by Thomas Jefferson.”                         Mazzei Family Tree
      Such experience and legacy has long made the Fonterutoli label one of the most prestigious among Chianti producers. Over lunch at a New York trattoria, I was again impressed with how solid and how essentially typical their basic Chianti Classico ($27) is, with the identifiable cherry flavors and smokiness of the aged sangiovese grape.
      Their Castello di Fonterutoli 2005 is certainly worth the $60 price tag for its persuasive blend of sangiovese with the tannic backbone of cabernet sauvignon.  And the Siepi ($107), which is an IGT wine, blends merlot in with the sangiovese to produce a big, warm wine with layers of flavor and very smooth tannins and toasty notes from being finished in small new French oak barrels. Its slightly higher alcohol content of 14.2 percent seems just about perfect for the body provided here. Here is one of those “Super Tuscans” that transcends the Chianti ideal with power and complexity.
     “The old generation of Italians drank a lot more wine than we do today,” says Mazzei, “per capita 120 liters in 1960 compared with 50 liters today. But most of their wine was in bottiglione (jug wine size bottles), and now Italians are looking for more quality and are willing to pay for it.”
      The IGT appellation, then, was, in fact, intended to satisfy producers like Fonterutoli, Antinori, Castello Banfi, Castello di Brolio, and others who make Super Tuscan wines without their having to carry the label “vino da tavola” (table wine).  Mazzei’s Belguardo estate in Maremma, nearer the sea, and its IGT wines picture a geometrical symbol by Leonardo da Vinci representing precision and perspective. Serrata is a blend of sangiovese and alicante grapes; and Tenuta Belguardo even more unusual, with 90 percent cabernet sauvignon and 10 percent cabernet franc.  Bronzone 2004 ($30) does have a Maremma DOC and is 100 percent sangiovese whose age has given it a charming sweet-dry balance and a good squeak of acid to keep it refreshing.
      The Sicilian experiment with nero d’avola began in 2002 with the purchase of a 50 hectare (124 acres)estate called Zisola, with 17 hectares (42 acres) of vineyards.  The heat of Sicily would be rough on sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon, whereas the traditional nero d’avola has already proven itself  on the international market as a 21st century winner. The Mazzei’s Zisola label ($25) should do well, for the 2006 is already full of spice and pepper, with some of those southern Mediterranean floral notes that evoke the terroir of the vineyards in the southeast.
      As someone who has criticized Italian producers for upping their prices before they had the quality and consistency, I admire the Mazzeis for being sensible about building a 21st century reputation built on 24 generations of experience. “We know the dollar is weak against the euro,” says Mazzei, “but we are very serious about the U.S. market and we’re trying hard to hold the line on pricing.


John Mariani's weekly wine column appears in Bloomberg Muse News, from which this story was adapted. Bloomberg News covers Culture from art, books, and theater to wine, travel, and food on a daily basis, and some of its articles play on the Saturday Bloomberg Radio and TV.



In London, Golda Bechal, who died at 89, willed $20 million to her favorite Chinese restaurant’s owners, Kim Sing Man and his wife Bee Lian, without leaving a penny to her relatives—who, of course, sued the estate contending she was demented and won back $2 million, but then had to pay court costs of $800,000.


“This love letter to the legendary bars of some of Paris’s most luxurious (and expensive) hotels is not to suggest that I prefer to lap my gin from Baccarat crystal. And as compelling as I find the cultural lore of early-20th-century Paris, I don’t go to the bar at the Hôtel de Crillon to try to coax Teddy Roosevelt out of the woodwork. If I were only after luxury and history, I’d go read a book in the Louis Vuitton store. The secret is that this cluster of Right Bank monuments holds, and often hides, lounges that provide singular, decadent, theatrical sets for a magical night out in Paris, where opulence and silly fun can go hand in white-gloved hand.”—Julia Langbein, “We'll Always Have Cocktails,” Gourmet (October, 2008).


TO ALL PUBLICISTS: Owing to the amount of material sent to this newsletter regarding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's dinners--many of which are only announcements as to price fixed dinners--it is impossible for me to include any but the most unusual of events for those holidays in Quick Bytes.
--John Mariani

* In celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness month, NYC’s Magnolia Bakery is proud to support the Susan G. Komen Foundation with their “Power of the Cupcake” fund. Specially made during the month of October, Magnolia offers Pink Ribbon cupcakes decorated with a custom-designed Pink Ribbon de-con, with 50 cents  of each sale going to the Foundation.

* For those who want to savor what China Grill has been all about for the past 21 years (in NY and 13 years in Miami Beach), China Grill South Beach introduces a ‘classics tasting menu’ offered for 6-course dinner at $69 pp. Call 305- 534-2211.

*  From now until Election Day Chef Steve Chiappetti from Chicago’s Viand will be doing his Democrat vs. Republican menu. Guests can partake in either prix fixe menu, at $20.08. In addition, guests will receive a ballot to select their preferred candidate. Should that candidate win, the ballot can be brought back to Viand, where guests will receive 50% off their next meal at the restaurant. Call 312-255-8505;

* Through Oct. 17, Giovanni, in conjunction with the NYC  Wine & Food Festival, pairs 5 courses with 5 wines, offered exclusively to Amex cardholders at  $80 pp. Call 212-262-2828;

* In NYC, Brasserie Cognac de Monsieur Ballon, will host a special Cognac School on Saturdays beginning Oct.  18 and ending November 8.  $60 pp., $100 for two. Call 212-757-3600.

* On Oct. 18 along the Beaches of South Walton, FL, Brew-Ha-Ha on the Boulevard, in Grand Park will showcase 125+imported and micro-brewed beers from 25+ countries, along with a walk-about food tasting from Grand Boulevard’s destination restaurants – Cantina Laredo Gourmet Mexican Food, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Kilwin’s Chocolates, Fudge & Ice Cream, Mitchell’s Fish Market, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and Tommy Bahama’s Tropical Café.  $25 in advance and $30 day of the event at all Wine World locations.  Call 850-654-5929;

* On Oct. 23 in Dallas, Aurora will hold a 5-course ZD Wine Dinner at $150 pp. Call 214-528-9400.

•    On Oct. 23 in Old Mt Pleasant, SC,  The Old Village Post House holds its next 4-course wine dinner by Frank Lee, Executive Chef and Jim Walker, Chef de Cuisine, featuring Bravante Vineyards, with wine pairings by Patrick Emerson, Wine and Beverage Director. Call 843-388-8935;   

•    On Oct. 26 NYC’s Tabla will kick off its 10 Year Anniversary with a special Diwali feast by Chef Floyd Cardoz, served family style. As is customary with the holiday, Tabla will hand out boxes of Indian sweets as parting gifts. $89  pp.
children 12 years and under $50.  Call 212-889-0667.

* On Oct. 26 in Lockport, IL, at Tallgrass, Chef Robert Burcenski and Maitre‘d Thomas Alves will host a special 4-course Fall Harvest Dinner at $45 pp, with a 3-glass wine flight for an additional $30.  Call 815-838-5566.

* On Oct. 26 Va Pensiero in Evanston, ILL, and Maverick Wine host a Winemaker Dinner with Winemaker Giovanni Pasquero-Elia of Paitin Vineyards. $80 pp. Call 847-475-7779.

* On Oct. 28 in NYC Capsouto Freres celebrates its 28th anniversary with a 3-Course Prix Fixe Menu for $28 pp.   Each guest will also receive a complimentary glass of Yarden Brut Sparkling Wine. Call 212-966-4900;

* On  Oct. 28 in NYC, Eleven Madison Park and Champagne Jacques Selosse will present an evening featuring a 6-course dinner from Chef Daniel Humm, paired with wines of Champagne Jacques Selosse. $495 pp/  Call Dana Longiaru at 646-747-2586.

*  On Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 Charlie Palmer’s Aureole in NYC celebrates its 20th Anniversary with a Special “20 Bites” 8-course tasting menu and wine pairing covering the favorite dishes from the past two decades.  $300 pp. Call  212-319-1660.

* On Nov. 2  Sassi restaurant in Scottsdale, AZ, hosts a traditional Italian festival called Festa di Maiale, or Festival of the Pig., with Italian wine tasting, live musical entertainment, and indoor and outdoor seating. $65 in advance and $75 the day of. Call (480) 502-9095. Visit

* On Nov. 3 in Los Angeles,  Chef Neal Fraser and Grace Restaurant will host a fundraising dinner for Careers through Culinary Arts Program .  $125 pp. Call 818-990-5542.

* On Nov. 6 The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco announces An Evening with Michael Silacci, winemaker for Opus One Vineyards and 6-course dinner created by Ron Siegel. $395 pp. Call 415-773-6168.

NEW FEATURE: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linking up with four excellent travel sites:

Everett Potter's Travel  Report:

I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the  web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury  Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and  a frequent contributor to National  Geographic Traveler,  and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their  travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special  places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of  staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star  places as five-star experiences."  To go to his blog click on the logo below: THIS WEEK: AFFORDABLE ADVENTURES; IN SEARCH OF VALUE: A WEEKEND GETAWAY IN PENNSYLVANIA; IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE ODYSSEY


Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contrinbutor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio.  He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.


Tennis Resorts Online A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored  two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to  Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991). THIS WEEK: On the Road: Tampa-Sarasota

Family Travel Forum: The Family Travel Forum (FTF), whose motto is "Have Kids, Still Travel!", is dedicated to the ideals, promotion and support of travel with children. Founded by business professionals John Manton and Kyle McCarthy with first class travel industry credentials and global family travel experience, the independent, family-supported FTF will provide its members with honest, unbiased information, informed advice and practical tips; all designed to make traveling a rewarding, healthy, safe, better value and hassle-free experience for adults and children who journey together. Membership in FTF will lead you to new worlds of adventure, fun and learning. Join the movement. This week: Keys to the Florida Keys.

Family Travel Forum

All You Need to Know Before You Go



MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani,   John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery,  Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

 John Mariani is a columnist for Esquire, Wine Spectator, Bloomberg News and Radio, and Diversion.  He is author of The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink (Lebhar-Friedman), The Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink (Broadway), and, with his wife Galina, the award-winning Italian-American Cookbook (Harvard Common Press).

 Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from by clicking on the cover image.

My newest book, written with my brother Robert Mariani, is a memoir of our years growing up in the North Bronx. It's called Almost Golden because it re-visits an idyllic place and time in our lives when so many wonderful things seemed possible.
    For those of you who don't think of the Bronx as “idyllic,” this book will be a revelation. It’s about a place called the Country Club area, on the shores of Pelham Bay. It was a beautiful neighborhood filled with great friends and wonderful adventures that helped shape our lives. It's about a culture, still vibrant, and a place that is still almost the same as when we grew up there.
Robert and I think you'll enjoy this very personal look at our
Bronx childhood. It is not yet available in bookstores, so to purchase a copy, go to or click on  Almost Golden.
--John Mariani

© copyright John Mariani 2008